Monday, 11 March 2013

Oz, the Great and Powerful Review

I saw the teaser poster back in the day and knew that I needed to see this movie.  With today's CGI technology, the Oz franchise is something that should definitely be revived.  Yes, the original is a classic and will always be so.  But the books depict this absolutely fantastic world that was previously unfilmable.  Now we can do it right and I'm glad to see that Hollywood realizes this.

I also like that they did not start by just remaking the Wizard of Oz.  A badly needed background is being built.  For the most part, it is quite strong.  I do not know how close this is to the actual story in the books as I have not read all of them and those that I did were so long ago that I have forgotten.  But there is definitely a foreshadowing of future events and crises throughout this film.  Some may say that it is an obvious setup for a sequel.  To that, I say, "what's the problem?"  There are numerous Oz books and the whole world is much more than Dorothy and her entourage.  A multi-volume film franchise is just what it needs.

That being said, just how does the first installment rate as a movie?  With regards to the story, I already said that I thought it was decent.  I like how they explained the wizard's arrival in Oz and his character flaws which are never fully explained in the old movie.  There was also always an underlying tension with the witches that they do a decent job of explaining.  Oz purists may or may not like it but I think it should satisfy most average film goers who are familiar with the original film.

Visually, it is pretty stunning.  Most of the sets and costumes look a bit plastic but this is a magical land that is far different from our own.  I like the use of black and white and a 4:3 aspect ratio for the Kansas scenes.  But I did find that they seemed a bit plastic and surreal as well which took away from the transition to Oz.

Finally, I was quite disappointed in the acting.  None of the star-studded cast gave a decent performance.  Oddly enough, the best was Michelle Williams who I just have a hard time watching at the best of times.  It was almost as if they all tried to tie it into the same style as the original film.  But, back then, that was just how people acted on screen.  We don't need that now and the camp factor actually makes it more difficult to watch.  I was originally happy to see James Franco cast as the wizard.  He proved with 127 hours that he has some range.  But his performance here was pretty bad.  Because of the light-hearted nature of the film, there is more comedy to it and his goofy grins and delivery went too close to his stoner from Pineapple Express.  It just didn't fit this movie and he turned out to be the wrong choice.  I do have to give a nod to Zach Braff's voiceover work though.  The combination of his inflection and the CGI for the winged monkey were spot on.

Because of the strong story and great visuals, I can forgive the substandard acting.  It isn't great, but it is good.  See it.

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